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Goossens: Orchestral Works, Vol 2 - Davis

Goossens: Orchestral Works, Vol 2 - Davis

Chandos  CHSA 5119

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Sir Eugene Goossens: Four Conceits, Op. 20; Kaleidoscope, Op. 18; Tam o’Shanter, Op. 17; Variations on ‘Cadet Rousselle’; Two Nature Poems, Op. 25; Three Greek Dances, Op. 44; Intermezzo from ‘Don Juan de Mañara’, Op. 54; Concert Piece, Op. 65

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis


This album marks the beginning of the partnership between the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its recently appointed Chief Conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, who already boasts an impressive discography on Chandos.

In the pieces performed here, we find Goossens emerging at the end of World War I as a brilliant and innovative orchestrator, a modernist with a technique derived from Debussy, Ravel, and early Stravinsky. As Director of the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney and Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, he was phenomenally successful, his achievements earning him international fame.

Four Conceits, Kaleidoscope, and Two Nature Poems all began life as works for solo piano, written during or just after World War I. All were later adapted for orchestral forces, and in steep contrast to the excessive length and opulence of much wartime music, these works (Kaleidoscope and Four Conceits in particular) are conspicuously brief. In fact, only one of the four Conceits exceeds two minutes.

The short tone poem Tam o’Shanter and the four-act opera Don Juan de Mañara were both inspired by literary works. The former illustrates the well-known poem of the same name by Robert Burns, depicting the drunken return from Ayr of Tam on this horse, the uncertain gait of which is heard in the music from the outset. The libretto for Goossens’s opera had been written by Arnold Bennett after a play by Alexandre Dumas, père.

Also closely associated with the arts, Three Greek Dances was written for Margaret Morris whose flowing style of dancing, inspired by Isadora Duncan, we today associate with the 1920s. The piece, in its final form, was first performed in London by Morris and her dancers at the Faculty of Arts, Piccadilly in January 1931.

At the suggestion of their friend the critic Edwin Evans, four composers – John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Arnold Bax, and Eugene Goossens – jointly produced a miniature set of variations on the French folksong ‘Cadet Rousselle’, for soprano and piano. Goossens later arranged the set for orchestra without voice, the version performed here.

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Review by Graham Williams - March 1, 2013

Volume 1 of the Chandos series devoted to the music of Sir Eugene Goossens was the final recording made by the late-lamented Richard Hickox. The challenge to bring the music of this talented and neglected composer to a wider public has now been taken up by Sir Andrew Davis. It is perhaps worth mentioning that a few years ago Vernon Handley recorded a comprehensive 3-disc set of Goossen's music for the Australian label ABC Classics, but even this did not include one of the works found on the earlier Chandos disc. For Volume 2 Chandos have gone further and unearthed a selection of mostly shorter works that include no fewer than four premier recordings in their orchestral versions.

Most of the music on this Volume shows Goossens in a witty and light-hearted vein. 'Kaleidoscope Op18' a suite for children is typical. Written 1917-18 originally for solo piano and orchestrated in 1933 it is a collection of eight delightful miniatures whose titles invoke memories of childhood with titles that include 'March of the Wooden Soldier', 'Lament for a departed doll' and 'The Punch and Judy Show'.

The 'Four Conceits Op.20' of 1918 – here receiving a premiere recording on CD of the orchestral version – inhabit the same world as 'Kaleidoscope', but with a more whimsical flavour, whilst 'Tam o' Shanter' – a scherzo for orchestra dating from from the same period – brilliantly encapsulates the adventure described in the well-known Burns poem in a cryptic orchestral tour-de-force lasting under four minutes. One especially captivating novelty is the sparkling orchestration of a set of variations on the satirical French folk song 'Cadet Rouselle' that was originally a joint composition for soprano and piano by Goossens and three of his contemporaries - Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge and John Ireland.

Moving into the 1920s we have 'Three Greek Dances' written for Margaret Morris, an exponent of the dancing style of Isadora Duncan. Though not exactly redolent of classical antiquity the sinuous lines of second dance and the animated third immediately bring to mind Ravel's 'Daphnis and Chloe'. The spirit of Ravel is also invoked in 'Two Nature Poems' from 1937-38 in their glittering and luxuriant orchestration. A tantalising glimpse of Goossens as a composer of opera is provided by the turbulent Intermezzo from 'Don Juan de Mañara'. This opera was staged at Covent Garden in 1937 and received a broadcast performance in 1959 conducted by the composer. However the Intermezzo was cut for the broadcast so its presence on this SACD is most welcome.

One of Goossens last major works the 'Concert Piece for two harps, oboe, cor anglais and orchestra' of 1957 completes this varied and generous programme. Written to showcase the talents of three of the composer's siblings (the oboist Leon and the harpists Marie and Sidonie) it opens with a spiky and deliciously pungent 'Fantasia'. The 'Chorale' that follows begins with an oboe solo that leads to a set of variations and, after a harp cadenza, moves without a break into a strange 'Perpetuum mobile e burlesca' in which fragments of familiar orchestral works fleetingly appear – the waltz from Act 1 of 'Swan Lake' being the most obvious.

The performances of all the music, given here by Sir Andrew Davis and the excellent Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, could hardly be bettered. Special praise must be given to Jeff Crellin (oboe and cor anglais) and the two harpists Marshall Maguire and Alannah Guthrie-Jones for their sensitive playing of the solo parts in the 'Concert Piece'. The acoustic of the Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Melbourne provides both warmth and clarity for the transparent sound captured on this Chandos 5.0 channel 24-bit/96kHz disc. Authoritative notes on the background to each of these compositions by Lewis Foreman enhance one's enjoyment of this fascinating collection.

Those who enjoy the music of, say, Bax, Walton, Grainger or any of the other composers mentioned above should not hesitate to investigate this invaluable release.

Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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